Great Fosters

Sroude Road, Egham, England TW20

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Great Fosters
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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    Quite simply, the best I have ever stayed in.


    Over the years I have been lucky enough to have travelled a bit, and, occasionally (normally if someone else was paying!) I have had the pleasure of staying in some wonderful hotels. If absolutely pushed, however, I would have to say this is my favourite hotel in the world. A bold statement I know, but please allow me to explain.

    Think about your perfect hotel. What would you want from it? Well, comfort obviously. Perhaps friendly staff, atention to detail, a good restaurant, relaxing atmosphere and to use a much overused phrase, a home away from home. GF, as I call it, is all this and more.

    Admittedly, it is not in some exotic location, it is situated just outside a fairly ordinary dormitory town outside London. No palm trees or breaking waves (although they have an outdoor pool for summer swimming) but still a remarkable place to stay. Let me try to paint you a picture, if the photos do not help you. Speaking of photos, as there was not sufficient room, I have put some more pictures in a travelogue for Egham, which you may wish to look at.

    Arriving up the drive you are confronted with the sicene of a beautifully preserved 16th century building, once apparently a hunting lodge for royalty. Do not be put off by the huge closed oak doors. Open the small door within a door and enter a magical place. If. like me, you are tall (I am 6'5") be a little careful, the door was built for smaller people than us!

    The first thing you will notice is the smell. Believe me, I do not wish to put you off by this, the smell is that of a huge open wood fire surrounded, as you see in the photo, by a magnificent carved fireplace. Even in the summer, when the fire is not lit, the smell permeates the place, and is quite wonderful. You would, in truth, think you had wandered into a museum. An antique grand piano, moulded plaster ceilings, original artwork on the walls, and sofas in front of the aforementioned fire that you could happily fall into and never get out of.

    If you can manage to drag yourself through this wonderful room (you could never call it a lobby or a foyer) you come to the reception desk, and here, for me, is where the place really scores. You can have the most wonderful building in the world but if the staff do not match, you have nothing. I love the staff at GF. They are friendly and helpful without ever being obsequious. A polyglot mix of French, Polish, Thai, NewZealanders and so on, they are generally young, and, again becoming cliched, nothing is too much trouble for them. There is a genuine sense that they love the place and want to make you love it as well.

    I could tell you about the cocktail lounge with the patio overlooking the award winning gardens, or the Residents Lounge, small, intimate, and with yet more overly comfortable seating, and more of the gardens later. However, I will tell you about what you probably want to read, namely the bedrooms. I always stay in the old building, and so should you. If, however, it is full, I know there are newer rooms (I am told they are very pleasant) in the Coach House, and still more in the Cloisters, which are both seperate buildings, although more modern. For me, though, the Old House is the place.

    Go up the stairs (unfortunately, the Old House would not be suitable for mobility impaired visitors by it's very nature), pausing briefly to admire the centuries old velvet curtains and the proper carpet with real metal stair rods, you will arrive at the first floor. There are some great rooms here. I love a hotel where the rooms have names and not numbers. The Corridor Room is very good, with a huge free-standing bath and a full length mirror with a TV in it, Baroness Halkett and Justice Foster are both lovely, but I am saving the best to last.

    Go up another floor, mounting a perilously steep ancient spiral staircase (don't worry, the staff are very good at getting your luggage up there but see the photo for an idea) and you come to my favourite room in the place, the Tower. Wonderfully comfortable, it is simply the best place you would ever want to stay. OK, no internet connection (well, I don't think so), no minibar, no 200 channel satellite TV. Who needs them? That is not what this place is about. Instead you can lie in the wonderfully comfortable bed and look out the leaded mullioned windows onto the gardens (I am getting to them, honestly) or gaze at the oak beam in a ceiling that has been looked upon by centuries of nobility. It does not get any better, believe me. Now, there is a catch. The Tower is the only non ensuite room in the place, as the photo indicates, but there is a private bathroom back down the staircase. Really, it is not a great price to pay, and the bathroom is immaculate.

    OK, to the gardens, at last. I am in no way, shape or form a gardener, I could not grow weeds, but the gardens at GF are really something. Over 50 acres of immaculately kept grounds, it really is a wonder. The photgraphs were all taken on a snowy winter day, which was pleasant in it's way, but in summer, they are nothing short of magnificent. You can wander for ages, discovering small hedged off areas where you can sit and read quietly, or the little summer house (great for a picnic), or just admire the skill of the gardeners with the remarkable topiary.

    All that garden exploration will have made you hungry, no doubt, so on to the food. I have only ever eaten breakfast at GF, although I am told the restaurant for lunch or dinner is excellent. If the breakfasts are anything to go by, I can believe it. There is an extensive cold buffet, and a good selection of hot breakfasts. The Full English is filling, or for something lighter, I adore the haddock poached in milk or the brioche French toast with back bacon. I intend to eat there in the evening as soon as time allows and so will post another tip.

    UPDATE - May 2009. I have now eaten dinner in the outstanding Oak Room restaurant and it was every bit as good as I imagined it would be when I initially wrote this tip.

    If you do stay in this here, you will be in good company. Apart form all the aristocracy, Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin both enjoyed the hospitality of this wonderful place.

    Yes, I sound overly enthusiastic about this place and, no, I am nothing to do with the hotel. Have a look at my other pages and you will see I did not just log onto VT to write this. I am genuinely in love with the place. If you stay there once, you will be too.

    Update July 2010.

    I try to keep my tips up to date so people know it is not old information. I stay here quite a bit and the standards remain excellent. It is still as good as it always was, and still my favourite hotel bar none.

    Unique Quality: How many unique qualities would you like? The rooms, the history, the gardens, the superlative staff, excellent food, it just goes on. As I said in the title of the tip, the best place I have ever stayed.

    Directions: See the website, it is easier than me explaining.

More about Great Fosters

Dining at it's very finest.

by planxty about Oak Room, restaurant, Great Fosters.

If you have read my Great Fosters Hotel tip, you will know that I simply rate it as the best hotel I have ever stayed in. I continue to stay there regularly and it remains superb. Strangely enough though, until a couple of days ago, I had never actually eaten in the restaurant, except for rather wonderful breakfasts. I am so glad I rectified this ommission.

The Oak Room is the name of the restaurant, and it is a magnificent setting. Decor is simple, but it does not need to be anything more as the room itself provides the ambience. It is located in the 16th century hotel, with a large open fire at one end. I suggest you take a look up at the superbly restored wooden roof, a true testament to the carpenter's craft. It is stunning.

I fully expected the service to be of the highest quality, and was not disappointed in that respect. Both my companion and I are smokers and were having a pre-dinner drink and cigarette on the terrace ovelooking the beautifully tended gardens. The maitre d' duly appeared on the terrace to take our order, after we had perused for some time. A msuician I deeply admire called Fish once penned a line "trapped in the indecision of another fine menu" and this was indeed a problem, everything looked so good. I'll tell you what I eventually plumped for later!

Wine is always a problem for me, as I know absolutely nothing about it, and freely admit that fact. My companion, fortunately, is more knowledgeable, and we chose a very light Bordeaux at the suggestion of the maitre d', a Frenchman who obviously knows about and loves wine. It proved to be an excellent bottle and not overpriced considering the surroundings.

With no rush at all, we were shown to our table (coincidentally the one we normally choose ourselves for breakfast) and were treated to a selection of no less than five warm homemade breads, of which the rosemary and the mozzarella were standouts for me. This was followed by a "chef's gift" of a quail Scotch egg, which was extremely tasty.

On now to the meal itself. I had chosen a pressing of sweetmeats, mushroom and foie gras as a starter. Yes, indulgent I know, but it was a special occasion, and I do like a little luxury now and again. The intensity of flavour was outstanding and complemented perfectly by the beetroot and pear (an inspired pairing if you will pardon the pun) with which it was served. I also tried some of my companion's curried scallop, which was equally delicious. I had been worried that the curry spices would have overpowered the delicate flavour of the scallop, but it was done beautifully.

If the starter was outstanding, the main course was, if anything, even better. I had opted for the lamb, served with a vine tomato filled with cheese, tiny potato balls and samphire. The samphire was a fiirst for me and I had always associated it with fish and seafood but it worked superbly with the perfectly cooked lamb. Truly, an outstanding dish.

Never a great sweet eater myself, we decided to move straight to the cheeseboard. Well, in truth it was, as the French have it, a "chariot du fromage", a trolley laden with a top class selection of cheeses which the knowledgeable waiter was happy to explain to us. He was happy to serve us with a varied selection and although all good and served at exactly the right temperature, the pick for me were the Exmoor Blue and the Livarot, a French cow's cheese from Normandy. The cheeses were served with a selection of obviously home made crackers, again showing the attention to detail so evident here.

The head chef Simon Bolsover has previously worked in a number of high-class establishments including Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blancs world famous establishment, and it certainly shows. He and his staff are to be commended on an outstanding restaurant.

Certainly, it is not cheap, the bill for two as described being about £160 (about $240 US at current rates) but for a special treat it was certainly worth every penny.

Absolutely recommended. I have only eaten here once, and the menu changes seasonally, but the lamb as described above was simply magnificent.

The wonderful Great Fosters Hotel.

by planxty

"A stunning place."

As I mentioned in my tip for Great Fosters Hotel, I was going to put some more photgraphs on a travelogue, as I think the place absulutely merits it. These photos were all taken on a slightly snowy but overcast day. Imagine what this place is like in the height of summer!

This is what you can expect to look out on from the Tower in the hotel in the early morning if it is snowy. Believe me, it is even more beautiful in the summer.

Another view, this time from ground level.

This is the delightful Japanese bridge. I have to say, be careful attempting it in the snow!

Another of the small gardens.

The summerhouse not looking particularly summery.

A very icy fountain.

A different view, this one taken throught the very old mullioned windows of the main room in the hotel, looking out onto the formal gardens. Beautiful, isn't it?

Only one thing to tell you about.

by planxty

"Just made the page for my best tip."

As the title suggests, I constructed this page for one tip. I have nothing against Egham at all, it is a pleasant enough place to spend a while, but for me the great attraction is the simply excellent Great Fosters Hotel. The town boasts a couple of good pubs and a Loch Fyne fish restaurant, but I really only ever pass through there, so do not feel qualified to comment too much. Perhaps I shall make more tips some day.

The photo is of the Hotel, on a lovely snowy day.

Update, 10th June, 2009.

OK, so I possibly misled you with the title of this page. I recently visited the Loch Fyne restaurant mentioned above, and it really was rather good. See tip for full details.


Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surry, UK.Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surry, UK.

Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.

Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.

Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.Gardens, Great Fosters Hotel, Egham, Surrey, UK.


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Sroude Road, Egham

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Address: Sroude Road, Egham, England TW20